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Movie heaven: Anthony Quinn's 100 Best Films

Published 26/09/2009

<b>100. Army In The Shadows (1969, Jean-Pierre Melville) </b>
This tense thriller about French resistance fighters portrays courage as shrugging fatalism and grips tighter than a pair of Gestapo handcuffs.
100. Army In The Shadows (1969, Jean-Pierre Melville) This tense thriller about French resistance fighters portrays courage as shrugging fatalism and grips tighter than a pair of Gestapo handcuffs.
99. The Wages Of Fear (1953, Henri-Georges Clouzot) An existential thriller about men poised on the very brink of annihilation, it posits the idea that only gambling with your life can give it value.
98. Unforgiven (1992, Clint Eastwood) Austere, autumnal and much-decorated Western in which Eastwood plays a one-time killer and investigates legends - his own, Hollywood's, that of the Wild West itself.
97. Election (1999, Alexander Payne) We could almost be watching Hillary Clinton: The Early Years in Reese Witherspoon's magisterial portrait of a high school prissy miss on the rise.
96. Los Olividados (1950, Luis Bunuel) An unsettling, even horrifying portrayal of juvenile delinquents in Mexico, riven with violence and unrelieved by pity.
95. Don't Look Now (1973, Nicolas Roeg) Death in Venice, foretold in a disquieting shuffle of flashback and premonition, as an anguished couple try to repair their life following a tragic bereavement.
94. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975, Peter Weir) Atmosphere counts for everything in this weird Victorian tale of an Australian academy coping with the inexplicable disappearance of three girls.
93. Together (2001, Lukas Moodysson) A sly, humane comedy about a mid-1970s hippie commune in Stockholm, where the clothes are awful, the food worse, and the revolutionary ardour in serious doubt.
92. Nights of Cabiria (1958, Federico Fellini) Fellini's portrait of innocence traduced is made memorable by Giulietta Masina's heartrending performance as a melancholy streetwalker.
91. I Am Cuba (1964, Mikhail Kalatozov) Visionary account of the insurgent fervour that gripped Cuba in the late 1950s, beautifully photographed in lapidary monochrome.
90. La Kermesse Heroique (1936, Jacques Feyder) A gloriously ribald farce about a 17th-century Flanders town under threat of invasion. Graham Greene wrote of it: 'a little obscene, like most good comedies'.
89. Trainspotting (1995, Danny Boyle) Ground-breaking adaptation of the Irving Welsh novel, a rollicking yet cautionary fable of Edinburgh low-life, hopeless addiction and terrible toilets.
88. The Leopard (1963, Luchino Visconti) The fading of the Sicilian aristocracy in the 1860s might not have instant appeal as a subject, but the film is full of ravishing images and colour.
87. Peeping Tom (1960, Michael Powell) Cameraman as serial killer? Powell's evocation of dread and derangement is really quite sick, yet you can't tear your eyes off it.
86. Diner (1982, Barry Levinson) A sweet, funny, talk-driven portrait of male camaraderie and romantic hijinks in late-1950s Baltimore just prior to the sexual revolution.
85. Ridicule (1996, Patrice Leconte) This costume comedy of verbal manners examines the way in which a pointed wit unlocks the door to favour and patronage in pre-revolutionary Versailles.
84. The Reckless Moment (1949, Max Ophuls) A terrific noir melodrama of blackmail and self-sacrifice, with top-notch performances by Joan Bennett and James Mason.
83. The Searchers (1956, John Ford) That image alone of John Wayne standing irresolute in the doorway at the end of his odyssey raises this Western to top-drawer status.
82. The Lusty Men (1952, Nicholas Ray) Ray's deceptively simple ballad of a rodeo rider (Robert Mitchum) meditates on age, loss and the yearning to belong.
81. Mean Streets (1973, Martin Scorcese) Scorsese's punk energy and De Niro's livewire insolence are irresistible in this Italian-American ode to New York.
80. Duel (1971, Steven Spielberg) Spielberg's hugely accomplished debut about a truck from hell pursuing a highway motorist doesn't offer explanation - just a pulsating white-knuckle ride.
79. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, Michael Curtiz) Lincoln green meets Technicolor motley in a feast for the eyes, with swordplay as quick and thrilling as it ever got.
78. The Lives of Others (2007, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck) Amoral psychodrama that investigates the pinched republic of fear that was the GDR of the 1980s. The late Ulrich Muhe was moving as the Stasi surveillance agent who finds his humanity.
77. Rififi (1955, Jules Dassin) The centrepiece of this pulp classic is a wordless half-hour in which a gang cracks a safe, the most intricate and absorbing heist in all cinema.
76. The Deer Hunter (1978, Michael Cimino) Reactionary at the time, Michael Cimino's epic of wartime estrangement conjures the experience of Vietnam in images of hallucinatory horror.
75. La Passion de Jeanne D'Arc (1928, Carl Dreyer) Dreyer's account of the trial of Joan of Arc has an austere majesty, heightened by the pathos of Renee Falconetti's haunted face.
74. Rumble Fish (1983, Francis Ford Coppola) Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke were never better than in Coppola's dreamy neo-expressionist fable of brotherly love.
73. In a Lonely Place (1950, Nicholas Ray) None lonelier than Ray's Hollywood, where Bogart's screenwriter displays a violent streak that may have fingered him as a possible murderer.
72. Smiles of a Summer Night (1955, Ingmar Bergman) Bergman's sardonic country house comedy would be a treat in itself, but it also gave rise to Sondheim's magnificent A Little Night Music.
71. Barry Lyndon (1975, Stanley Kubrick) Kubrick's most affectingly human movie, plotting the rise and fall of Thackeray's scapegrace wanderer (Ryan O'Neal) amid the haute monde of 18th-century Europe.
70. The Lost Weekend (1945, Billy Wilder) You can spot the seed of Trainspotting in the nightmares that torment Ray Milland's drinker in Wilder's bruising drama of addiction.
69. Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972, Werner Herzog) A quest narrative of unparalleled strangeness, in which a director and his star (Klaus Kinski) battle it out for the title of Greatest Movie Megalomaniac Ever.
68. Rebecca (1940, Alfred Hitchcock) Joan Fontaine at her loveliest and Olivier at his most repressed in Hitchcock's Gothic suspense thriller - and who will ever forget Mrs Danvers?
67. Wild Strawberries (1957, Ingmar Bergman) An aged professor takes a road trip and comes face to face with his past in Bergman's dreamlike evocation of old age and youth
66. Rashomon (1951, Akira Kurosawa) This ninth-century-set murder mystery became hugely influential through its use of multiple reconstruction, wherein 'truth' becomes a slippery commodity.
65. Tokyo Story (1953, Yasukiro Ozu) Ostensibly the plain tale of an elderly couple visiting their children in the city, this is a moving study of generational estrangement and individual loneliness.
64. Downfall (2004, Oliver Hirschbiegel) Bruno Ganz gives the performance of his life as the Fuhrer, still raging against the dying of the Reich in a chaotic bunker beneath Berlin.
63. The Dark Mirror (1946, Robert Siodmak) Really scary. Olivia de Havilland plays identical twins - one's a murdering psychopath, the other isn't - in Siodmak's unusual suspense thriller.
62. Toy Story (1995, John Lasseter) The industry-changing technical wizardry remained in the service of a buddy comedy about a toy cowboy and a space ranger
61. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943, Powell and Pressburger) A decent career soldier who believes in 'values' is a source of comedy and pathos.
60. Psycho (1960, Alfred Hitchcock)
59. Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1970, Vittorio de Sica) De Sica's haunting, and subtly horrifying, account of an aristocratic Jewish family trying to outpace the long reach of the Holocaust. Dominique Sanda is sensational as the spoilt daughter
58. The Fallen Idol (1948, Carol Reed) Ralph Richardson is wonderfully touching as the lovelorn butler up against the dangers of innocence - it caught Graham Greene's tone superbly.
57. The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978, Fred Schepisi) A harrowing and brilliant adaptation of Thomas Keneally's novel about a half-caste Aborigine traduced by his white masters in early 20th-century Australia.
56. His Girl Friday (1940, Howard Hawks) Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell go head-to-head as a tough news editor and his ex-wife crime reporter, trading gags and dialogue at breakneck pace.
55 LA Confidential (1997, Curtis Hanson) A beautiful period piece adapted from James Ellroy's novel and the most accomplished West Coast noir since Chinatown. Plus a calling card for Russell Crowe.
54. There Will Be Blood (2007, Paul Thomas Anderson) Avisionary fable of oil, greed and blood that confirms Paul Thomas Anderson as a true original. There is nothing else like this in movies.
53. Sullivan's Travels (1942, Preston Sturges) A comedy about the consolations of comedy. Joel McCrea's idealistic director goes on the road to sample real life and gets more than he bargained for.
52. Ball of Fire (1941, Howard Hawks) Barbara Stanwyck is blissfully impudent as the burlesque dancer giving Gary Cooper's lexicographer the runaround. As much fun as you could have in 1941.
51. Overlord (1975, Stuart Cooper) The drama, part-fictional, part-archival, of an ordinary conscript as he prepares for the D-Day invasion becomes a lyrical black-and-white dream of stoicism and sacrifice.
50. Meet Me In St Louis (1944, Vincente Minnelli) Just to hear Judy Garland sing 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas' brings back an ache of longing for innocent times, and films past.
49. Sunset Blvd (1950, Billy Wilder) Classic Hollywood: a murder mystery recounted by a dead man. Also a kind of horror, with Gloria Swanson as the star of the eternal movie in her head.
48. The Conversation (1974, Francis Ford Coppola) Gene Hackman haunts this astonishing Watergate-era movie about a lonely professional wire-tapper who steals privacy for a living.
47. Gone With The Wind (1939, Victor Fleming) Romance, nobility, ambition and jealousy set against the incendiary backdrop of war: it almost defines the term 'Hollywood epic'.
46. Touch Of Evil (1958, Orson Welles) Welles's last Hollywood production, a disquieting Tex-Mex noir of dancing shadows, sweaty close-ups and corruption you can almost smell.
45. L'Atalante (1934, Jean Vigo) The most poetic barge since Cleopatra's burned on the water. Vigo's mournful and magical rumination on human desire is still a joy.
44. Nashville (1975, Robert Altman) Altman's sinuous epic roundelay is nominally about country music but in its apparently shambolic way encompasses the pleasures and ills of American society.
43. It Happened One Night (1934, Frank Capra) Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert meet on the road as canny newshound and spoilt heiress; their chemistry brightened the gloom of Depression-hit America.
42. Oliver! (1968, Carol Reed) Lionel Bart's songs and Carol Reed's direction capture something true to Dickens's ebullience; Mark Lester is unforgettable as Oliver.
41. Taxi Driver (1976, Martin Scorcese) An oddly romantic portrait of psychosis and loneliness in New York, matched to the spooked prowl of Bernard Herrmann's final score.
40. Blue Velvet (1986, David Lynch) More of a trip than a movie, this is comedy, psychosexual horror and coming-of-age story rolled into one swooning fantasia. Isabella Rossellini is tremendous as the abused nightclub singer, though the movie is stolen - brutally - by Dennis Hopper and his gas-mask.
39. Breathless (1960, Jean-Luc Godard) A masterpiece of insouciance, in which Jean-Luc Godard pays cheeky homage to the cheap American gangster movies of his youth. Jean Seberg's American in Paris and Jean-Paul Belmondo's Bogartian hood look as cool today as they did 50 years ago.
38. Once Upon a Time in America (1984, Sergio Leone) A Temps Perdu of the Jewish American underworld. Leone's saga of friendship and betrayal was his last work, and his grandest. The closing overhead shot of De Niro ('Noodles'), grinning from his opium dream, will haunt you for years.
37. Manhattan (1979, Woody Allen) This love letter to his city may not be Allen's funniest (is that Annie Hall?) but thanks to the luminous black-and-white photography it is his most beautiful. The strains of George Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' whip along the exuberant spirit of romance.
36. L'Enfant Sauvage (1969, Francois Truffaut) Truffaut's most thoughtful and touching film, based on fact, about an 18th-century behavioural scientist (played by Truffaut himself) who tries to educate a wild boy found in the woods. The black-and-white photography lends it an almost documentary feel.
35. Duck Soup (1933, Leo McCarey) The Marx Brothers in their funniest film, an anarchic, mile-high farce about war that breaks a lance against anything remotely serious. The silent broken-mirror sequence between Groucho, Harpo and Chico is a sublime exhibition of flawless comic timing.
34. The Last Detail (1973, Hal Ashby) Two sailors conduct a young miscreant to prison and on the way try to show him a good time in this tragicomic tale of stunted humanity. Jack Nicholson as the blowhard navy 'lifer' dominates the picture, but Randy Quaid as the doomed kid is a scene-stealer.
33. The Apartment (1960, Billy Wilder) A vision of hell masquerading as a comedy, in which Jack Lemmon is a put-upon office drone in love with Shirley MacLaine. Wilder and Lemmon both show themselves as capable of sadness as of farce.
32. Groundhog Day (1993, Harold Ramis) Beneath the comic surface lies a genuinely haunting rumination on eternal return and a man's frantic efforts to escape it. Bill Murray gives the turn of his life as the arrogant weatherman trapped in the infernal machine of repetition.
31. On The Waterfront (1954, Elia Kazan) A melodrama of racketeering raised to glory by Marlon Brando's pugilistic yet oddly poetic presence and Budd Schulberg's superb screenplay. Rod Steiger's speech to Brando about how he 'coulda been a contender' is nearly a legend in itself for being so imitated.
30. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942, Orson Welles) Even in its truncated form - whole scenes were irretrievably lost - this story of a noble family's decline is one of Welles's greatest achievements. Tim Holt as the spoilt son and Agnes Moorehead as his tragically disillusioned aunt are, as the title says, magnificent.
29. Alien (1979, Ridley Scott) The most imitated movie of the past 30 years. Ridley Scott's cool direction and HR Giger's genius of design create unbearable tension around a thing that jumps out of the dark to kill you. The weird hum and the slow-burn build-up to each fright are integral to its reputation.
28. The Red Shoes (1948, Powell and Pressburger) Incandescent melodrama of a ballerina (Moira Shearer) and the struggle for her soul between a composer who loves her and a maniacal impresario who drives her. Its portrayal of the thin divide between 'genius' and madness is, in Anton Walbrook's performance, utterly bewitching.
27. Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz) You must remember this... Rick's cafe, Sam's piano, Ilsa's tears, the 'Marseillaise', the transit papers, the waiting plane, the usual suspects. A movie that seems impossible to tire of, even when you know that the cast were laughing at its corny lines.
26. Fear Eats The Soul (1974, Rainer Werner Fassbinder) Fassbinder's greatest film, the story of a doomed romance between an ageing German woman and a young Moroccan immigrant. The director shot it quickly, in 15 days, though that was quite long enough to tell bitter truths about the xenophobic society in which his characters live.
25. The Rules of The Game (1939, Jean Renoir) Banned as 'demoralising' on its release, Renoir's house-party comedy shimmers with suggestion and surprise as it examines a nation on the brink of war. Pauline Kael has called it 'perhaps the most influential of all French films', and it?s certainly one of the most enjoyable.
24. The Third Man (1949, Carol Reed) An embarrassment of riches, from Graham Greene's script to Robert Krasker's brooding chiaroscuro cinematography to Welles's feline evil as the profiteer Harry Lime. Greene admitted that its most famous speech, about the cuckoo-clock, was an invention by Welles. And how about that zither.
23. Sherlock Jr (1924, Buster Keaton) One of the most wondrously inventive comedies ever. Buster Keaton plays a projectionist who dreams himself into the film he's running - an early instance of a film artist turning his medium inside out and discovering a new enchantment. A surrealist gem.
22. Raging Bull (1980, Martin Scorsese) Scorsese at his most lyrical and brutal: he pushed himself and his star further into rage and remorse than they'd ever been. The kinetic boxing sequences are beyond compare, and De Niro's anguished, swollen LaMotta is a frightening grotesque.
21. The Big Sleep (1946, Howard Hawks) Hardly anyone could make sense of Chandler's plotting, but who cares when Bogart and Bacall are burning up the screen together? As David Thomson has noted, Hawks had them 'upright but writhing, like the smoke from two cigarettes'.
20. Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles) There's probably a law that this must be included in all Best Movie lists - a flop at the time, but how it has taken its revenge since. Welles, a debut filmmaker at 25, took the form and shaped it anew, with bravura camerawork, riddling chronology and moments of visual invention that still amaze today.
19. A Man Escaped (1956, Robert Bresson) Quiet, contemplative, modest, in the Bresson manner, this also happens to be the finest prison escape movie of all. On the surface a straight-forward and flatly realistic narrative, at another level it's an equivocal essay in spiritual grace and fatalism.
18. Sweet Smell of Success (1957) Match me, Sidney. You can't match this portrait of corrupt souls for brilliant talk or elegant nastiness: 'You're dead, son - get yourself buried.' Burt Lancaster as the vicious control-freak gossip columnist and Tony Curtis as the sleazeball camp-follower and press agent were never better.
17. Notorious (1946, Alfred Hitchcock) A twisted romance like no other: Cary Grant's intelligence agent seems to betray the woman he loves (Ingrid Bergman) to the suavely sinister Claude Rains. One great shot among many: when Bergman awakens with a hangover, she sees Grant in the doorway, backlit and upside down. As she sits up, he rotates 180 degrees.
16. The Godfather I and II (1971-74, Francis Ford Coppola) Perhaps the greatest gangster saga of them all. It's the American Dream savagely distorted, a story of criminals taking on 'business' and beating it at its own crimes. Gordon Willis's dark-toned cinematography burnished the satanic majesty of Brando and Pacino who made the name 'Corleone' a byword for ruthlessness.
TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1945) HUMPHREY BOGART, LAUREN BACALL THNT 005P MOVIESTORE COLLECTION LTD
14. Night of the Hunter (1955, Charles Laughton) Laughton's only movie as director is a dreamlike fable of childhood terror, and one of the most frightening pictures ever made. Robert Mitchum as the murderous, hymn-singing preacher with LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles is a memorable movie bogeyman.
13. This is Spinal Tap (1983, Rob Reiner) The rockumentary that goes all the way to '11'. Peerless performances both onstage and off as a Brit heavy metal band implodes on an American tour. Every scene - almost every line - has something hilarious in it, and the songs ('Stonehenge', 'Sex Farm') achieve a kind of gormless majesty.
12. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949, Robert Hamer) Ealing's blackest comedy, and its funniest. Cynicism lights up the macabre tale of a multiple murderer stalking an aristocratic Edwardian family. Alec Guinness, playing each member of the family, gives a performance that might be called a tour de farce
11. Brief Encounter (1945, David Lean) Unimprovable romantic heartbreaker, and a hymn to the virtue of restraint. The playing of Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard is exemplary, though the movie is inextricably bound up with the crashing romanticism of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto and the drab whistle-shrieking realism of that railway station.
10. Chinatown (1974, Roman Polanski) Everything works so beautifully in this Californian noir about water and power: Robert Towne's Oscar-winning script, Polanski's direction, Jack Nicholson's career-best performance, Richard Sylbert's production design, Jerry Goldsmith's mournful and minatory score. 'Forget it, Jake...' - but we can't.
9. The Conformist (1970, Bernardo Bertolucci) A sumptuously imagined portrait of moral and political cowardice starring Jean-Louis Trintignant as a Mussolini-era aristocrat paralysed by doubt. The bravura climax, as an innocent woman is pursued by assassins over a snowbound forest, is heartstopping.
8. Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock) No getting around the absurd plot, and yet this film's vision of loss, illness and obsessive love is inexhaustibly strange. The sequence in which James Stewart finally seems to have recreated his dead lover in Kim Novak is a queasy classic of manipulation. Hitchcock's masterpiece.
7. Great Expectations (1946, David Lean) This may be the greatest literary adaptation ever, catching both the bitter dread of Dickens's childhood and his obsession with hopeless love. The alertness to atmosphere is a technical triumph, first in the opening scenes in the graveyard, later in the shadow-hung enclosures of Miss Havisham's house.
6. The Battle of Algiers (1965, Gillo Pontecorvo) A masterly examination of the Algerian insurgency during the 1950s against French colonists. Pontecorvo's docu-style melds suspense, horror and insight into the future of warfare: what army will cope in an age when anyone can detonate a bomb in a crowded public space?
5. The Lady Eve (1941, Preston Sturges) Arguably the finest screwball comedy of all, loaded with great lines and a scintillating turn by Barbara Stanwyck as the cardsharp with a soft heart. Her seduction of Henry Fonda's clueless millionaire ophiologist (snakes, of course) is one of the funniest and sexiest in all movies.
4. The Wild Bunch (1969, Sam Peckinpah) Peckinpah's tale of ageing gunmen running out of land and time isn't just a great violent Western, it's also an elegy to a dying code of loyalty and a signpost to the future (the automobile, the machine-gun). William Holden's performance as the bunch's leader is incomparable.
3. Singin' in the Rain (1952, Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly) The greatest of all Hollywood musicals, this satire on Hollywood in the late 1920s as the silents give way to talkies is deliriously entertaining. The teamwork of Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds is immaculate, though you may detect a wistfulness hiding within the exuberance.
2. Double Indemnity (1944, Billy Wilder) Gloriously nasty noir that features not only the most fatale of 1940s femmes in Barbara Stanwyck but a script (by Wilder and Chandler) of dazzling wit and concision. The way Fred MacMurray's insurance agent eyes Stanwyck as she descends the staircase at the beginning is just one of its many exquisite touches.
1. All About Eve (1950, Joseph L Mankiewicz) No1? It has to be close. Writer-director Mankiewicz shapes it as a story of the theatre, but the snakepit he's really talking about is Hollywood. Aspiring young actress Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) ingratiates herself with a grande dame of the theatre, Margo Channing (Bette Davis), first becoming her secretary, then her understudy, then her rival. Eve exudes pathos and vulnerability, yet she's false to the core, and at first only Margo's waspish dresser Birdie (Thelma Ritter) sees though her act. 'What a story!' she cries on hearing Eve's tale of woe. 'Everything but the bloodhounds snapping at her rear end.' The movie examines two universal types: the woman who's terrified of ageing, and the younger woman who's always lurking in readiness to replace her. Margo articulates this dilemma in a superb speech: 'There's one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not... being a woman. Sooner or later, w've got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we've had or wanted." Bette Davis tore into the role like a woman possessed, eyes flashing like danger lamps at the smallest sign of a challenge. Neither she nor Anne Baxter won an Oscar, but their co-star George Sanders did for his urbanely unpleasant theatre critic Addison deWitt, who observes from the wings as narrator and sets the film's sardonic tone. Wielding a cigarette holder and a quiver of brilliant put-downs, Sanders has an almost Wildean air of cynicism and self-esteem. 'I am Addison deWitt, and I am nobody's fool' - least of all Eve's. When she holds the door open and grandly orders him out of the room, his drawling reply is unbeatable: 'You're too short for that gesture.' You know what else this amazing film has? Marilyn Monroe, in an early role as one of de Witt's slavish protegees. She's great, too. The script, which deservedly won an Academy Award, is delivered by the cast with lip-smacking relish: it's virtually a love-letter to performance, to putting on a show, be it with a brave face or a false face. Even the Academy fell for it.

Fed up with formulaic ‘blockbusters’ and overhyped cinematic turkeys? Movie critic Anthony Quinn selects 100 timeless movie classics that never disappoint.

Click More Pictures above for Top 100

When I was a kid I made lists all the time – favourite footballers, favourite singles, favourite bands – though I don’t recall anyone being interested enough to ask me about them. They were oddly comforting, all the same, those lists, and I would check them regularly as a way of imposing order on chaos.

Later I would make lists of favourite films, but they tended to be inside my head rather than in a lined exercise book. I have a sense that most people who love cinema make such lists. What is it about film that brings out the taxonomist in us? Why is it important to have a running order of preference in our heads? It’s perhaps because our choice of top five comedies, or top 10 thrillers, or whatever, becomes a sort of defining characteristic. An allegiance to this or that movie says something – something quite profound, we hope – about our view of the world. Our favourite films are an invisible badge of taste, and to discover someone else who wears that badge might be, in a famous movie phrase, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Two questions I am most often asked as a film critic: (1) Do you use one of those pens that have a light on the tip? (2) What’s your favourite film? The answer to (1) is no, I just scrawl away in the dark. As for (2), it keeps changing. Before I started compiling this list of my top 100 movies I honestly didn’t know what would end up at number one. I enjoyed finding out.

Note that “my” top 100. This isn’t a list of the 100 Greatest Movies Ever Made, and never could be. Even if that list were collated from the leading film critics of the world, it would be no more definitive than any other. “Greatest” cannot be scientifically calculated. “Most Successful” obviously can be, but a list of the highest-grossing top 100 would be perfect tedium.

My credentials are only these: I saw an awful lot of movies as a youth in repertory cinemas (The Penultimate Picture Palace and the Phoenix in Oxford, later the Scala in King’s Cross and the Hampstead Everyman), and I’ve seen an awful lot of movies in the last 20-odd years as a film critic. That volume is important. It’s not that critics are smarter than the ticket-buying public, it’s just that they see about 30 films in a month while the average cinemagoer sees maybe three. The critics are drawing from a deeper pool of movie memories.

Nowadays, the films I used to watch are available through other media – DVDs, lovefilm.com, late-night movie channels – though I wonder how dedicated people still are to immersing themselves in the classics. There’s something different about the experience of seeking out an old movie in a flea-pit cinema, as opposed to kicking back in front of the TV. You form stronger attachments. All of which is a roundabout way of admitting the absolute partiality of my 100. You will notice a marked preference for American cinema; for movies of the 1940s (a Golden Age) and the 1970s (a Silver Age); for movies by Hitchcock, Hawks and Wilder; for movies starring Barbara Stanwyck.

You will also notice a perhaps surprising negligence of whole swathes of world cinema, of British movies fromthe last 25 years, of Disney, of documentary, of women directors. This last I found particularly troubling – but there just aren’t that many out there. Maybe in five or 10 years’ time my deep regard for Andrea Arnold’s Red Road and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker will bag them a slot.

And I’m sorry if your favourite doesn’t appear on the list. When I mentioned to friends that I was doing a Top 100 their eyes would light up and the interrogation would begin. “Have you got The Railway Children?” “Have you got Witness?” “Have you got i?” “Have you got Notting Hill?” I’m afraid the answer to the first three is no. To the fourth (from a younger person) the answer was along the lines of “Over my dead body”.

But the great thing about this was how passionately people engaged with the idea of a top 100. We love lists. At dinner with friends last Saturday the whole evening became consumed by what could, should – must – be on there. The debate was still going strong at 1am.

Source: Independent

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